How to choose a brilliant book topic

Some entrepreneurs I meet have lots of ideas about what topic they want to write about in their book. In fact, sometimes they have too many. Others have none, though that’s not always because they cannot generate ideas but more often because they haven’t had the time or space to think of any. Sometimes the anxiety of coming up with a great book topic – rather than simply a usable one – causes a block and all the ideas dry up. But whether you have too many ideas or none at all, you need to find a way to choose a book topic before you can start writing.

You need to find a way to choose a book topic before you can start writing. Click To Tweet

The trick is to find a topic that interests you, that you are knowledgeable about and that your readers want to know about. But there are other ways to approach the problem that are a bit more obscure: like starting with the structure, sending out surveys and doing market research. So, if you’re struggling to choose a topic for you book or you have too many ideas, here are some ways to choose the best topic for your book.

1: Start with structure

One way to come up with a book idea is to begin with the structure or type of book you want to write. For example, what topic would you choose if you wanted to write a book of tips, a book based on quotations, a question and answer book or a book of based on interviews. The structure may well help guide the topic you choose and shape the way you present it to your reader.

2: Ask questions

If you’re struggling to come up with an idea or you have several and can’t choose, here are some questions that may help you make up your mind.

  • What problems do most of your clients come to you to get help with?
  • Are those clients at the entry level (novices who know nothing) or are they more advanced?
  • What does most of your target market get wrong about your area of expertise? What misconceptions do they have and what common mistakes do they make?
  • What topics are covered by the bestselling books in your market?
  • Which posts, comments or blogs have got the most response from your audience?

Asking questions can help you get clear on exactly what you want to write about and what your audience is looking for. You may find that when you ask the right question, you find the topic and argument needed to get you started with your book.

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3: Brainstorm

Brainstorming can be difficult to do on our own so if possible, find someone who is willing to do it with you. It’s a great way to mine your unconscious and come up with ideas you didn’t even know you had!

  • Make a complete list of all the topics and ideas you can think of. It doesn’t matter whether you write down single words, possible titles or phrases, just get your ideas on paper.
  • Wait 24 hours to let your mind settle.
  • Go through the list or collection of ideas and cross out any ideas you’re not sure about for any reason. For example, if they do not interest you, or if you think you don’t know enough about them or if you just think they wouldn’t work for any reason.
  • Write out the remaining ideas and add to or adapt them so they work better as book topics.
  • Wait a few hours and go back to see which ideas stand out. Write these out on a separate sheet of paper. Cross out any ideas that you have decided won’t work for any reason or that you don’t want to write about at this point. Aim to get the selection of ideas narrowed down to three.
  • Write down a rough contents list for each one of your ideas to check you will have enough material and to see whether you feel inspired by it.
  • Do some market research on each idea and maybe survey your contacts for feedback. You need to check your book will interest your audience before you make your final choice.
  • Based on your gut feeling, your knowledge and what excites you and your audience, choose one idea to work on.

4: Survey your crowd

Another way to get an idea for a book is to survey your current contacts. Ask them what they most want to know about your area of expertise. Ask them which books they have read already and which they liked. Also find out what it is about what you do that most attracts them to you. If you get your survey questions right, you could find that it yields more than just a book topic – it could provide the contents list as well.

5: Use existing material

Your existing material may focus on a particular area of your work giving you a ready-made topic for a book. Look at the articles you have written, the blog posts and client materials you have created. Look for themes or ideas that recur and then amalgamate all the material you have around that topic. You can then edit and add to your existing material to produce a book. This approach has the advantage of being fast and of minimizing the amount of additional writing you need to do.

6: Rewrite old books

Books that are already published can be great sources of ideas. Research the market in your area of expertise and look for a popular but out of date book, a book that you disagree with or a book you think you could write better. How popular is this book? Is the author well known? Do you have a solution, message or approach that is better than that of the original? Has anyone else already tried to produce a new version of this book? Look a the book carefully and decide what you want to do differently. The topic will be ready-made and you have the added benefit of knowing there is a ready market for this book.

Choosing one book topic over another requires logic and analysis. Click To Tweet

Choosing one book topic over another requires logic and analysis. If you already have a book topic in mind, both are useful in testing whether your idea is as good as you believe it is. So even if you have a ready-made idea for your book, you still need to check it out before you begin writing. Take time to do some market research, conduct a survey and ask searching questions before you finally choose your book topic. Think about your structure and ferret out any existing material you may have already. The more work you do before you begin writing, the better your book will be.

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Deborah Taylor
Deborah Taylor

Hi, I'm Deborah Taylor and I'm a publishing consultant and book-writing mentor. I work with established business owners who want to share their message by writing a book but are struggling to get started (or finished). I help them write, publish and launch a stand-out, attention-grabbing book that will raise their profile, reach more of their ideal clients and grow their business. I am a trained editor with over 15 years' publishing experience with major blue-chip UK publishing companies such as Hodder & Stoughton, BBC Books, Cassell and Pearson. I have produced books on every subject under the sun and with professinals and experts from a wide range of professions, from chefs and gardeners to life coaches and career consultants. I would love to help you write a book you love and that will raise your profile, attract new clients and bring you exciting new business opportunities.